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The city posts signs near my house that read:

Dump no waste whatever

The meaning is clear in context: don't dump any waste here. But the sign sounds incorrect. To me, it seems "whatever" should be "whatsoever." Is the sign correct? Is it using an archaic form of "whatever"?

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Does your city have a website that you can ask them about this? I agree that it would sound better with "whatsoever." Wonder why they didn't just say "No dumping." –  JLG Jun 7 '12 at 1:52
The use of "whatever" for "whatsoever" is much more common in the British Isles than it is in America. To some Americans, using "whatever" where they would have themselves used "whatsoever" sounds off/wrong/foreign. –  tchrist Jun 7 '12 at 1:56
But does anyone have a good explanation of when to use "whatsoever" in place of "whatever"? To me, the questioner is right -- "whatever" sounds wrong, not merely less emphatic. –  Joe Jun 7 '12 at 6:11

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Both whatever and whatsoever may be used to mean at all for emphasis.

Dump no waste at all.

Dump no waste whatever.

Dump no waste whatsoever.

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Any source for your claim? Please –  AbdulAziz Jun 7 '12 at 10:28

They mean the same - they both add emphasis. Whatsoever sounds more emphatic than whatever, but do you really need the extra emphasis? Whatever is in fact what educated writers in past centuries, like Churchill, mostly used. Whatsoever is mostly colloquial or American.

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What evidence do you have that this is mostly colloquial, or American? Neither dictionary.com nor OED.com say that. –  Matt E. Эллен Jun 7 '12 at 8:10
@MattЭллен “Neither” is plural? Or OED.com? –  tchrist Jun 7 '12 at 12:41
Experience? Or does that not qualify? –  Kaiser Octavius Jun 7 '12 at 17:27
It seems like a strange thing to say; in every other analogous form the "so" variant ("whosoever," "whensoever," etc.) is far more formal. "Whatsoever" is much more frequently used than those, but I don't think it's more colloquial than "whatever." –  emodendroket Dec 31 '14 at 15:38

Though I am a novice in this forum, I would like to take a shot at this. Dude, I have to say this is a great question, as this really touches the psychology of the English language in the context of grammatical usage vs colloquial usage.

To me, whatever can be thought of as saying what ever in 2 cases.
1. Message without an emotion (literal meaning): what ever as in “whatever you do, do it right” or “Do whatever it takes”.
2. Message with an emotion: In movies, whatever is commonly used in completion of a sentence which carries a casual emotion to it. Like “I don't know, whatever”. Here the tagline of the script must be that the actor displays a feeling of neglect.

Whereas whatsoever is more formal. It is not archaic yet as far as I know. It carries the same meaning as whatever. To me, whatsoever cannot carry an emotion. It is more correct when used formally.

So, to answer your question, if the city's signpost said “dump no waste whatever”, then I would say it is wrong. It must have been just “dump no waste”.

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It could be abbreviating the phrase "whatever occurs, Dump no waste". –  Daniel Jun 7 '12 at 1:55
No, that is not what it does. Both "whatever" and "whatsoever" here mean "at all". –  Kaiser Octavius Jun 7 '12 at 4:03

The sign should say "whatsoever" because that word literally translates to "whatever it may be" or "whatever the case" or "whatever kind", hence, the use of whatever leaves a taste of incompleteness (in my mind at least). In fact, I think it is entirely wrong to end a sentence with "whatever" — for instance: She has succeeded in whatever (she's attempted) — the words in the brackets feel necessary to me because "whatever" implies the use of another verb or object to come, whereas "whatsoever" already conveys one that is general and abstract.

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Let me use a different example from the one I've given: He hasn't made any effort whatsoever - vs - He hasn't made any effort whatever. See/hear how "whatever" begs for more words to add meaning to the sentence- to explain what the "effort" might constitute. –  Goran_Mandic Jun 7 '12 at 11:33
Whatsoever is an emphatic form of whatever. That is all. –  Matt E. Эллен Jun 7 '12 at 11:54
Come to think about it, I was talking out of my a-hole. I am sorry, English isn't even my native language, but I love it and got overexcited about finding such a well implemented board concerning grammar and English on the whole- I lost it. Sorry, again. –  Goran_Mandic Jun 8 '12 at 0:43

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